On October 7th the District Attorney of Queens
County, NY and City of New York Police announced the biggest identity theft
takedown in U.S. history. After two years of investigating crime rings in
Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 111 people have been indicted, and 86
of them are in custody.
The financial losses are reported to exceed $13 million over
a 16-month timeframe.
The investigation, called Operation Swiper required a
strong coordination of surveillance, intelligence gathering, court-authorized
electronic monitoring, and translation.
The identity theft fraudsters focused on credit card fraud,
which exposes the weaknesses the magnetic-stripe has. The credit card brands
were American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover Card.
It is reported that employees in restaurants, bars, retail
stores and financial institutions have been linked, using handheld skimming
devices and illegal websites to collect card details.
“This is by far the largest – and certainly among the
most sophisticated – identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law
enforcement has come across,” said District Attorney Brown. “Credit card
fraud and identity theft are two of the fastest growing crimes in the
United States, afflicting millions of victims and costing billions of dollars
in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions. … Even after
the culprits are caught and prosecuted, their victims are still faced with the
difficult task of having to repair their credit ratings and financial
reputations. In some cases, that process can take years, said Jerry Silva,
fraud analyst and consultant.